how to solve the football governance problem

Tuesday, February 15, 2022 6:00 a.m.

Fifpro general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann says football needs governance reform to steer it away from a ‘pretty negative path’ (Picture: Fifpro)

There is a common thread that connects the two biggest stories in football of the last 12 months, the failed European Super League breakaway and the debate over the biennial World Cups.

It’s also seen in concerns over player welfare, disagreements over business models and what global players’ union Fifpro sees as a tidal wave of abuse complaints heading towards the sport.

Football is broken, or at least its governance is, and looks likely to remain mired in a series of bitter stalemates until its decision-making processes are reformed.

“I think football is going through a period right now where everyone is realizing that the way things have been done is leading us down a pretty negative track,” Fifpro secretary general Jonas Baer said. Hoffman. AM City

One of the pitfalls of the Super League project and currently holding back controversial biennial World Cup proposals is the lack of “democratic buy-in” from all stakeholders, including the union’s more than 65,000 footballers.

“If you don’t have that, the decisions that are made are resisted from all corners because they don’t have the support of clubs, leagues, players etc.,” says Baer-Hoffmann. “How do you create this membership? You have to involve people in the process.

Although Fifpro is in talks with world governing body Fifa and its European counterpart UEFA, with whom it is engaged in a standoff over the future of the game, footballers do not have enough influence on decisions at the international level, he says.

But Baer-Hoffmann insists he is “very optimistic” that the industry will need to modernise, thanks in part to a generation of stars, like England striker Marcus Rashford, who attract large followings and are ready to speak out.

“True values-based leadership in our sport has often come from individual players – Rashford is the perfect example of that,” he adds.

“And that’s a strength that ultimately can’t be denied because of the platforms and the understanding players have of who they are and want to be.

“The players share very common points of view. Once you bring them together and confront them with the other institutions, it’s very powerful.

Fifpro members reject biennial World Cup plan

Fifpro hopes to impress on Fifa that footballers are united in their opposition to the biennial World Cups with the publication today of a survey of its members.

“The vast majority of them are in favor of maintaining the current pace,” says Baer-Hoffmann.

“There are various reasons – from [physical] burden for them to be fathers and mothers of children and husbands and wives of spouses – but there is also an understanding that there is some value in the scarcity of the World Cup.

“The players, with a very, very large majority, have a very clear view on this.”

In men’s football, a biennial World Cup would only heighten concerns over player welfare when those at the highest level are in greater demand than ever.

“The data shows that the intensity of the game has increased from 10 to 15 years ago, from the Rooneys and Giggs to today’s Rashfords and Sterlings,” Baer-Hoffmann says.

“It just becomes a health risk and a hindrance to performance. While many people say they make enough money to play so much football, no one benefits from sitting in the stands because they are injured.

Rather than confuse conversations about schedule and competitions, football should first define the former before considering the latter. Women’s football, where there is more space and demand for additional matches, should be considered separately.

England and Manchester United star Marcus Rashford typifies a generation of singers with their own platform
England and Manchester United star Marcus Rashford typifies a generation of singers with their own platform

The Super League has shown that domestic competitions need to be reformed

Fifpro welcomed the rapid collapse of Super League plans last year on the grounds that it would have concentrated wealth among a smaller group of clubs and therefore jeopardized the livelihoods of its lower members. in the football pyramid.

But Baer-Hoffmann says the game cannot ignore the uncomfortable truth that gave rise to the breakaway attempt: that domestic competitions in their current formats hold little appeal for Europe’s biggest clubs.

“It is almost impossible for clubs to play in a competitive competition at national and European level,” he adds.

“You can’t ask Rangers to come into the Champions League group stage without being too dominant in Scotland – that’s just not possible.”

Fifpro believes that domestic competitions need to be redesigned to make the elite tier more compelling and the lower tiers more sustainable, respond to a misplaced faith in the trickle-down economy via transfer fees that mostly circulate among lower teams. richer.

“If we pay as much attention as we do to World Cups and Champions Leagues, we might have some ideas,” says Baer-Hoffmann.

Don’t ask players to justify the Qatar World Cup – Fifpro

While social media has given top players greater freedom of speech than ever before, Fifpro warns footballers should not be called upon to justify this year’s World Cup in Qatar.

“No player has decided to play the World Cup in Qatar, so they shouldn’t be held responsible,” says Baer-Hoffmann.

“If you’re lucky you play a World Cup once or twice in your career, and that’s not a fair position that players are often placed in.”

If players wish to find out about the human rights situation in Qatar, Fifpro is keen to help them, as it did with Finnish captain Tim Sparv.

While Baer-Hoffmann says Qatar deserves credit for modernizing labor laws, he fears resistance on the ground will frustrate progress unless external bodies continue to exert pressure.

“There is this myth that hosting mega sporting events in countries will lead to a massive process of democratization and improvement of human rights that historically never really happened,” says- he.

Women's football must be redesigned separately from men's football, says Baer-Hoffmann, secretary general of Fifpro
Women’s football must be redesigned separately from men’s football, says Baer-Hoffmann, Secretary General of Fifpro

It’s not all bad news: women’s football is ‘soccer’s biggest advantage’ – if managed the right way. “There’s such a push that can only really be held back if the game doesn’t respond intelligently,” he says.

Women’s football also needs a major overhaul of competition structures separately from men’s football. Baer-Hoffmann says a two-year World Cup “could be completely bad for one and good for another, and it’s not considered that.”

One of the darkest aspects of football’s governance failures are the power structures and dependency relationships that have given rise to Fifpro’s growing work with survivors of sexualized crimes.

“There is an absolute wave of reports of sexual harassment and abuse in football which really shakes the fundamental position that many entities have in this game and in their communities,” he says.

“None of these problems can be solved unless we tackle governance effectively. The way we make decisions is not efficient and you sense that the resistance between different institutions has become so personal and entrenched that even if someone makes a positive proposal, it is simply rejected based on its origin.

“I think the foundation ultimately is governance, but there are many applications of the issues that this leads to.”

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